When you start to ship products via freight, the entire process might seem intimidating. There multiple moving parts to follow and a lot of new ideas to understand. We want to help simplify your introduction into this new method of product transportation, so here’s our beginner’s guide to shipping via freight.

What is Freight Shipping?

The simplest definition of freight is the transportation of goods either by truck, train, ship, or plane. The most common method of transportation that’s associated with freight is truck loads.

Freight is a convenient and cost-effective way to move large amounts of product quickly. There are a variety of freight services available, such as overnight trucks or refrigerated containers, so you’re bound to find an option that will work specifically for your type of inventory.

Types of Freight Shipping

There are different ways that you can ship items via freight, including full or partial truckloads. Each option for freight is described in more detail below.

Full Truckload: With a full truckload, you need enough product to justify the cost of an entire semi-trailer. Typically, you would use a full truck load for over 6 pallets and more than 15,000 pounds of material. Choosing a full truckload can help you save in some situations, and it also gives you more control over the security of your pallets because it requires less handling to drop off different shipper’s materials along the route.  

Partial Truckload: Once you surpass 6 pallets or 5,000 pounds, you’re probably going to want to use at least a partial truckload. With this method of freight, you end up splitting the cost of the truck with one or more other shippers. This helps you save in the long run compared to using a full truckload. But you also will need to consider the amount of stops a partial truckload might make to drop off other shippers’ items. Each stop could leave your products vulnerable to damage and will also extend the length of time it takes for your products to be delivered.

LTL: LTL stands for less than truckload and is generally used for any shipments that are too large to be considered parcels but too small to be considered a truckload. You would likely choose an LTL shipment when transporting products weighting between 150 and 15,000 pounds,

Intermodal: Intermodal shipments are transferred between two different modes of shipping via freight. This means a shipment might begin its journey on the back of a truck and switch to a ship and then finally a railcar. It can be any combination of shipping modes. Intermodal shipping can help reduce the overall cost of shipping goods, and it’s frequently used for international shipments.

Expedited: If you have products that are time-sensitive and need to be delivered as soon as possible, you would choose an expedited freight shipment. Most expedited shipments travel via truck or air. Expedited shipments are going to have higher premiums because they will require more attention and effort to deliver.

Bill of Lading

One thing you’re going to run into when shipping via freight is the Bill of Lading (BOL). This is a special document that is required before you can move any freight shipments. It serves as the receipt or contract between the freight carrier and the shipper. It is a legally binding document that shares all the important information, such as names and addresses, which is required to process the order correctly. The Bill of Lading is important to have on file in case something goes wrong while transporting a load.

Freight Classification

Freight classes were created by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to help establish fair and consistent pricing for shipping products via freight. Class numbers are between 50 and 500.

Every freight shipment is classified based on four characteristics, which are density, stowability, ease of handling, and liability. It’s important to accurately define your freight class in order to avoid costly adjustments to your invoice. If you inaccurately determine your freight class, you either pay too little to the carrier company or you end up paying too much for what you’re actually shipping.

Freight Shipping Rates

In addition to the classification of your shipment, there are other factors that will determine the final price you pay. The shipping method you choose helps determine the cost. For example, an expedited shipment will end up costing more than a normal shipment because it requires more effort on the carrier’s part. The origin of your shipment and the final destination also affect the pricing for your shipment. The farther your shipment needs to travel, the more expensive it will be. Another major factor is the dimensions and the weight of your products. Finally, the type of handling required for your shipment will add some extra costs, such as the transportation of perishable or hazardous materials.

Freight Packaging

When shipping products via freight, you have to specifically design your packaging to withstand the environment they’ll be exposed to. This includes preparing your pallet loads for impact with the right strapping or stretch wrap and predicting certain dangers, like temperature changes or shifting elevation levels.

It’s critical that you pay close attention to what your products need in order to ship safely via freight. If you plan to use intermodal shipping, you have more than one environment to consider, which makes your packaging even more important. Packaging for freight shipments that travel by ship or railcar require more intense protection compared to something that is traveling by truck.

Hopefully, this beginner’s guide to shipping via freight has given you some helpful information that you can now take and use to create your transportation plans. Moving products from one location to another requires some well-thought out logistics. Freight offers plenty of advantages to help you get things where they need to go.